Update On WordPress Directory Listing

Store Locator Plus® 5.9 was released last week as a security update for the WordPress plugin community.   The plugin was reviewed by the WordPress Directory staff.    They chose to keep the plugin closed for what they deemed “potential future issues” with the plugin as well as requests for several changes to follow what they deem “best practices”.   Of note in this review is that they did not cite any of the publicly reported vulnerabilities that closed the plugin in the first place as remaining open.

In other words, all reported vulnerabilities were apparently addressed to their satisfaction.

However, they have opted to keep the plugin closed until we can update our coding style.   While we are willing to work toward their new “best design practices” for coding style, this is going to take some time.  For example, the latest 5.10.1 release of the Store Locator Plus® plugin has replaced the PHP standard <?= shorthand with the longer <?php echo syntax per the WordPress Plugin Directory Team’s request.   Not a security issue, but something they requested we change before being re-listed.    This requires that we run a full internal test if the updated code before it can be released to the general public.

While we wait for the WordPress Plugin Directory Team to approve re-listing, our self-managed WordPress plugin users can only receive updates to the Store Locator Plus® plugin.  You can find this in the WordPress plugin store.   You can learn more about the update process in our 5.9 Security Update Released news post.

While we hope that the folks over at WordPress.com deem our plugin worthy of being re-listed in the near future, we have no control over what they will come back with during each review.   It could be weeks or months before the plugin is available again in the standard directory with one-click updates being available.

This is one of the biggest advantages to being on the SaaS offering, no need to manually update your locator software.  EVER.

Store Locator SaaS Improvements for Map Tooltips and Cluster Markers

Store Locator Plus® recently updated the SaaS servers and underlying locator software.   Many of the changes are server-level updates such as increased maximum throughput to the disk storage of the server clusters and longer backup retention periods.   Both improve the performance and resilience of the SaaS offering.    Users of our SaaS offering have a better experience without having to worry about the minutia of server management.

In addition to the performance update of the SaaS product there are several patches that improve the JavaScript applications that power the locator deployments.   Patches include improved feature support for Enterprise level users that take advantage of the map marker tooltips, which can be turned off via Settings | Map | Marker Tooltip , and well as consistent marker cluster behavior.

Store Locator Plus® map cluster markers.

Work has begun on improving the performance of Store Locator Plus® via reduced overhead on the server as well as refinements to the JavaScript libraries that run the SaaS deployments that should be out this summer.

How To Make A Map

how to make a map

There are thousands of articles describing how to make a map. There are a plenty of tutorials and descriptions — mostly about how to use Google Maps to accomplish this. Unfortunately a good number of those How To articles and videos focus on how to use the maps.google.com site to make your own version of a Google Map. A map that they host and control access to — which means it can change or go away at any time. Or Google can even decide to start suddenly charging fees for this free service — much like they did with Google Maps API Keys.

Making Maps The Hard Way

If you get beyond the “here is how to login to Google Maps and add your places to THEIR maps” articles you may find some “How To Make YOUR OWN Map” content. If you are running a website and want to put a map in your content, these articles are a good start. This is the type of “map making” you want to be looking into if you want to have a map on your site where you control a lot more of the look-and-feel. More importantly you control which PLACES appear on the map.

Typically you’ll start with getting to know the Google Maps JavaScript API. The How To articles will describe how to embed the basic JavaScript snippet on your site to get the map to appear. A little more coding and you can even drop your own maps pins on that map.

Making Maps The Hard Way
Making Maps The Hard Way

Once you get your map up-and-running you’ll soon find that you are looking for even more articles. Articles that take you deeper into things like “how to hide the places Google force-feeds onto your site” — sometimes showing competitors locations alongside yours. Or articles on how to change the marker style. Or hide secondary roads.

Before long you are months-deep into full-blown map development. If you can do these things yourself you may only be spending time. Often businesses are paying a web developer or web marketing agency a fairly hefty fee as they learn map building for your site.

Making Things A Little Easier

Thankfully many web presence service like WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace offer pre-built solutions. Some of these solutions are free but you pay for add-on services — much like the way our Store Locator Plus® WordPress plugins work. Nearly all of these services also require you obtain your own Google API Keys; Google has gotten too expensive for many of these pre-built map solution providers to include an “all you can eat buffet” of map views in their one-time purchase pricing.

Store Locator Plus® Map Software for WordPress
Store Locator Plus® Map Software for WordPress

These pre-packaged management tools make it a lot easier to build and display a map on your site. Often you can upgrade to versions of these apps to provide access to the HTML, CSS, and advanced JavaScript rules to fully customize the user experience. Some tools even make a lot of the most-used features a simple mouse-click option on a menu of user experience options.

How To Make A Map – The Easy Way

While pre-packaged map making software can save a lot of time and money over build-it-yourself maps, it still requires you or your web team to manage things like Google API Keys. You’ll want to know how to properly secure those keys so nobody else can steal them from your web source code. Not too mention you’ll want to keep a close eye on your billing and web traffic — at $7 per 1,000 map views and geocoding requests it can add up quickly to hundreds-of-dollars per month in Google fees.

There is another option that takes the map software a step further. Software as a Service apps are popping up every day. These services are often far easier to use than working with Google directly. All of the better solutions completely manage your Google API keys while providing the flexibility and power available in the self-managed apps.

Store Locator Plus® map maker saas
Store Locator Plus® map maker saas

Many of our WordPress plugin users have found that moving over to our SaaS offering has freed up resources. They no longer are paying web experts to upgrade and update plugins. Make sure backups are saving their hours-and-hours of data entry in case one of those updates goes wrong. They also can stop worrying about security and people snarfing their Google API keys from their site.

Instead, they get to focus on their business. Building their products. Improving their services. And hopefully adding new locations to their maps as they grow.